17 June 2021

Special Guest Post by Sarah Kennedy, Author of Queen of Blood

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1553: Mary Tudor has just been crowned queen of England. Still a Roman Catholic, Mary seeks to return England to its former religion, and Catherine hopes that the country will be at peace under the daughter of Henry VIII. But rebellion is brewing around Thomas Wyatt, the son of a Tudor courtier, and when Catherine’s estranged son suddenly returns from Wittenberg amid circulating rumours about overthrowing the new monarch, Catherine finds herself having to choose between the queen she has always loved and the son who seems determined to join the Protestants who seek to usurp her throne.

The Inspiration behind my series, The Cross and the Crown

My latest novel, Queen of Blood, which is also the fourth volume in The Cross and the Crown, my series about Tudor England was largely inspired by my interest in Mary Tudor. Mary Tudor is popularly known as “Bloody Mary,” because she supposedly led a violent counter-attack on the Protestant country she’d inherited from her father, Henry VIII, and her brother, Edward VI.

Mary’s reign interests me for a couple of reasons. First, she attempted to restore Catholicism as the official religion of England, and any attempt to change (or restore) a country so widely is a difficult undertaking for any leader. Secondly, and more importantly for me, Mary Tudor was the first real queen regnant in England. She ruled in her own right, and she had to fight to get and to keep her throne. She not only had to fight against subjects who thought a woman shouldn’t sit on the throne at all but she also had to fight to win over Protestant subjects to the cause of Catholicism.

Mary did have many of her subjects executed. Of that there is no doubt. Whether she was any more “bloody” than any other monarch dealing with uprisings and resistance, however, is open to debate. What’s clear is that her reign was a time of discord and polarization among English citizens, both nobles and commoners.

And this brings me to my real interest and inspiration: ordinary people, particularly women. I’ve long had an interest in how great cultural shifts affected the daily lives of people who were not living on the public stage of the monarchy—the servants, the farmers, the merchants and craftspeople who had to just get on with it if they wanted to eat and keep a roof over their heads. 

For women, this was all the more challenging, of course, because they also had to bear and raise children. I’ve long wondered how such seismic shifts in the culture around them, from Catholicism to Protestantism and back again to Catholicism, from one monarch to another, affected women. We know that the break with Rome resulted in the destruction of the monasteries and convents and that the former monks were able to become priests in the new church. We know something of some of the former nuns, but not a great many of them. We hope they survived, even if they didn’t thrive.

So what was it like, to be an ordinary woman in Tudor England?

For my main character, Catherine, it’s not easy. She is fortunate in many ways, in that she marries well and has healthy children. Because she was raised in a convent, she has an education. When Mary Tudor inherits the throne, the times seem to have turned favorable again; though Catherine has accepted the Protestant church, she still feels nostalgia for Catholicism. She is also glad that a woman now rules England, an event that she never thought could possibly come to pass.

But Mary Tudor is not an ordinary woman, as much as Catherine would like to think she is. A queen is not ordinary, and Catherine, despite her increasing wealth and the security it affords her, is still a commoner. She has to navigate and negotiate her way around the power of this queen, whom she has thought of as a friend. And Mary Tudor was a queen who used her power.

However intelligent Catherine may be, she is often left to her own devices as England heaves and rolls around her. I think this was likely true of many women—and men, for that matter. When things at the top change radically, those who live “below” must scramble to learn the new doctrines, forms of speech (and prayer), and acceptable behaviors. To fail at this might mean punishment, or death. Many did die, and surely many more whose names we will never know.

To bring these forgotten women and men back to life is my basic inspiration, and I hope that Queen of Blood does just that.

Sarah Kennedy

# # #

About the Author

Sarah Kennedy is the author of the Tudor historical series, The Cross and the Crown, including The Altarpiece, City of Ladies, The King’s Sisters, and Queen of Blood. She has also published a stand-alone contemporary novel, Self-Portrait, with Ghost, as well as seven books of poems.  A professor of English at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah Kennedy holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing.  She has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Find out more at Sarah's website https://sarahkennedybooks.com/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KennedyNovels


  1. Such an interesting post.
    Thank you so much for hosting today's blog tour stop.

  2. Fascinating post. Sarah succeeds wonderfully in bringing the past to life with strong well developed characters.


Thank you for commenting